Hope for housing in St Clements

A new scheme has been drawn up by Watkin Jones to build student accommodation on a controversial plot in St. Clements.

A previous project sparked months of protests from residents, 140 businesses and the University, with objections about a loss of car parking and the impact on an area of conservation near Magdalen college.

The original £8m plans were to provide 141 students with accommodation, reducing the number of car parking spaces in the area from 120 to 76. Traders claimed the lack of spaces could seriously damage their business, as shoppers could have nowhere to park for about a year. The scheme was eventually rejected by counsellors.

Watkin Jones came back with a new suggestion a year later. As well as reducing the height of buildings, the developers say the new scheme will provide 80 car parking places, six more than the earlier scheme. As St Clement’s car park would have to close for a year of building work, new plans have been drawn up to provide a temporary car park for 65 vehicles off Marston Road. The plans include new public toilets and the landscaping of the riverbank.

After a design competition, Manchester based firm Hodder and Jones have drawn up a plan, which features two rows of student flats either side of a pedestrian street, connected by a glass bridge. The idea is to maintain the former street pattern, once occupied by the historic Pensons Gardens, and to enhance views from the flats of the River Cherwell and meadows.

Roger Smith, of planning consultants Savills, said, “We consider that this is a much better proposal, which takes account of the conservation area, the amenity of local residents and provides a greater level of temporary parking during the period of construction.”

The developers hope that a planning application could be submitted in June, with a view to students moving in by September 2013.

Watkin and Jones still intend to appeal against the city council’s decision to reject the earlier scheme.